Just like Hurricane Ian hit Heading home in Fort Myers, Florida, Sandy Middleton sat 1,500 miles away in Wisconsin, convinced she was going to be okay.
Thursday morning she even thought it might be the cause. Initial photos of the house’s exterior, taken by her neighbors, showed minor damage.
A crumpled roof. Collapsed carport.
“My mom, she’s so strong,” Waunakee’s Jackie Middleton said Friday afternoon. “She said, ‘Okay. It’s outside. We’ll be able to rebuild it.'”
But hopes were dashed when neighbors were able to get inside the house late Thursday. The roof was damaged there and the rain was pouring unimpeded.
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“It’s devastating,” Sandy Middleton said Friday from the Castle Rock Lake campground where she stays every summer. ”
When Ian blew through Florida as a Category 4 storm on Wednesday, Madison-area residents who own properties in Sunshine State could do nothing but watch, wait, and hope.
The exact number of Wisconsin residents who own homes in Florida is unknown. The U.S. Census Bureau tracks ownership of the second home, but not its geographic peculiarities.
But the long, cold winters tempt northerners to travel south every year, and the Sunshine State is one of the most popular destinations.
As of 2018, Between 20% and 30% of homes in the Fort Myers area are owner second homes. According to an analysis of the five-year American Community Survey by the National Association of Home Builders:
R-Oshkosh Senator Ron Johnson has a home in Fort Myers.Former University of Washington Madison football his coach and athletic director Barry Alvarez Spend the winter in Naples.
Tasha O’Malley lives in Sun Prairie with her husband Brendan. Earlier this year, the couple purchased a home in St. Petersburg, Florida, and rented it out as an Airbnb.
“We thought about getting out of the car and getting in the window,” she said, a 1,300-mile trip.
But neighbors in Florida persuaded the O’Malleys to stay.
“My husband could be stranded. The bridge could have closed and he was heading away from the mainland,” said Tasha O’Malley.
Their St. Petersburg home survived the storm with only debris in the yard, and there was no electricity for hours after the hurricane passed.
Sheri St. Mari spends her time in Verona and Naples, selling properties in both provinces.
St. Mary was in Naples this week and learned of an approaching hurricane. She texted her kids in Wisconsin asking if she wanted them to head north, but even before they responded, she was packing up and on her way.
“I feel like a traitor because I left my neighbor there. “But I had to come for my children. I had to respect that evacuation was mandatory.”
Sandy Middleton plans to return to Florida in three weeks after the Castle Rock campground was turned off on October 15th.
So far she has been unable to contact her insurance company and the policy is in Florida.
I don’t know where she will stay. She doesn’t know how to clean up her property. I don’t know what she can save.
“It’s kind of overwhelming. Everyone asks a lot of questions. I want to take 24 hours not to talk about it,” she said.
But reality won’t wait, she said.
Photo: Waunakee’s Octopi expansion for $72 million